DOE, USDA award $18 million in biomass grants

By Susanne Retka Schill
The University of Minnesota landed three of the biomass research and development grants awarded in March by the USDA and U.S. DOE.

A team from the university's Center for Biomass Refining received $975,676 to help develop a microwave-assisted pyrolysis system for the on-farm conversion of cellulosic biomass to bio-oils. The research also aims to develop processes to improve the purity, stability and long-term storability of bio-oils. Another University of Minnesota team received $576,368 to analyze lignin as a facilitator during saccharification by brown rot fungi. The third project seeks to develop pathways to achieve U.S. bioenergy policy goals, develop economic costs and environmental impacts, and identify potential technological bottlenecks.

The three Minnesota projects were among 21 biomass research and development proposals receiving grants totaling $18.4 million. A wide range of projects from universities and private firms nationwide received the grants. Several projects will study biomass feedstocks, and others deal with conversion processes for cellulosic ethanol, biomass power and biobased chemicals.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced the awards at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference in Washington D.C., in March. Funding for these projects will be provided through the Biomass Research & Development Initiative, a joint USDA-DOE effort established in 2000 to develop the next generation of clean, biobased technologies. Grant recipients are required to raise a minimum of 20 percent matching funds for research and development projects, and 50 percent matching funds for demonstration projects. Of the $18.4 million, the USDA will provide up to $13 million, and the DOE will provide up to $5 million.

For the complete list of grantees, see